Grounded – Schooling in the Time of Covid-19

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grounded – schooling in the time of covid-19
Break Time, Copyright: Elizabeth Prisco

This series of articles looks at how teachers, parents/carers, and students around the world are teaching and learning in this global pandemic.


 

Elizabeth is a stay-at-home mom of two children (ages 4 and 6) in Connecticut, USA, who has previously taught English as a second language in South Korea and is also a talented and witty artist (check out her Quarantine cartoons on her Lizzy in a Tizzy Facebook page). She has also discovered a newfound love of breadmaking.

Her husband is a commercial pilot and the family includes a grumpy dog and 13 chickens. In the past few days, while interviewing Elizabeth for this piece, her husband has taken a three month paid leave of absence from his job, so will be joining the home bubble full-time.

Elizabeth first became aware of Covid-19 and its effects on health and daily life around mid-February, from friends who teach at schools in China. She immediately purchased supplies and extra groceries in preparation for staying at home for an extended time, and asked her husband to buy her a 3M respirator.

It looks intimidating, she says, like something you would wear while cooking meth.

“My husband uses one to clean our fireplace and do woodwork and I wanted something more effective than the ones folks used all too frequently in Asia. That night, the president made an announcement about masks and they were stripped clean from all the shelves. He bought the last one.”

Her children are no longer in school and the family is getting acclimatised to a distant learning platform. Her daughter was in pre-kindergarten so the big change for her is no longer having twice-weekly opportunities to be independent and socialise. Her son was in kindergarten and receives a daily schedule and video from his teacher. Elizabeth says they balance her son’s schoolwork with a lot of free time and outside time, and that both children are NOTICEABLY (her stress, not the author’s) less moody and overall very happy to be home.

Mom has had to go cold turkey on daily yoga studio visits, which she previously viewed as her sanity saver. Although she says she is perfectly capable of doing a self-guided, online or video class, she hasn’t yet been in the mood to do so.

“That’s on my to-do list for this week as my patience is very thin if I don’t exercise. I have found that trying to sort all this out at once is just not realistic, so slowly establishing a schedule and boundaries will be best.

Elizabeth says most of her friends are also stay-at-home mothers of young children who seem stressed by the unknown longevity of the Covid crisis, the lack of breaks and now having to be mom, teacher and spouse 24/7.

Living in a small rural town, people are able to exercise outside while adhering to safe distancing and trips to the grocery store are the only forays allowed. While her husband was still flying, he had to show his ID to cross state lines to commute to New York for his work.

“Being so close to New York City is very scary,” she says. “We have people from NYC coming to our hospitals now and lots of them are also flocking to their vacation homes here – which is spreading the virus.”

As her sanity saver in this new normal, Elizabeth gives herself and her children mandatory quiet time, and finds caring for her chickens and gardening without anybody speaking to her is “very, very refreshing”

“I listen to podcasts. Draw. Sit in silence and look out into the woods of my property. Any activity where nothing is expected from me at that moment.”

She sees a hidden blessing amidst the panic and fear being felt across the world.

“I have been reminded of what is really important,” she says. “What is a need versus a want. Getting back to the basics of how important time is, being with those you love and the simple things in life.

“Don’t spend your life worrying in a crisis – spend it believing everything will be okay.”